Are you pregnant and finding you’ve started struggling with breakouts?
While some women get that gorgeous pregnancy glow, you’ve ended up with annoying pregnancy acne.
It’s a common affliction, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t things you can do to prevent and treat breakouts. Read on for everything you need to know about battling those blemishes while pregnant.
Quick ComparisonOur Top Pregnancy Acne Product Picks of 2019 Read Full Reviews
What Causes Acne During Pregnancy?
Hormones play a huge role in causing acne, and when you’re pregnant, you’ve got plenty of hormones coursing through your body.
Certain hormones can cause you to increase sebum, or oil, production, which can lead to breakouts (source). But it’s not the oil that causes you to break out — it’s the bacteria that naturally live on your skin.
This bacteria feeds on the excess oil and emits a substance that mixes with the oil and dead skin cells to inflame the skin and clog pores, resulting in breakouts.
Pregnancy hormones don’t cause acne in every woman, however. And even in the same woman, their response to hormonal fluctuations can vary between pregnancies. With my first pregnancy, I had horrible cystic acne throughout and immediately postpartum, while with my second, my skin was clearer than it had ever been.
If you’re one of the women who find yourself struggling with terrible skin when you’re pregnant, you’re probably wondering what you can do about it.
Acne Medication While Pregnant
There are generally four types of prescriptions physicians can choose from when treating a patient with acne.
- Birth Control Pills: Birth control pills battle hormonal acne by helping to regulate your hormones. However, they are not appropriate during pregnancy as hormones are instrumental in helping your baby develop, and nothing should be done to interfere with them while you are pregnant.
- Oral Antibiotics: Oral antibiotics target the bacteria on your skin that can cause acne. Some types of antibiotics are believed to be safe for pregnant women, though the following medications should be stopped before your 15th week of pregnancy (source): Doxycycline, Minocycline, and Tetracycline. Speak with your obstetrician about any oral antibiotic you are taking — or plan to take — while pregnant. While they are believed to be safe while pregnant, there still may be some risks.
- Topical Retinoids: These are products you apply directly to your skin. They are derived from Vitamin A, and large amounts of Vitamin A can cause potential birth defects. Because anything you put on your skin is absorbed into your bloodstream, these products should be avoided while pregnant.
- Oral Retinoids: Containing the active ingredient isotretinoin, these oral pills are widely known to cause severe birth defects at any point in pregnancy. They should never be used during pregnancy and, if you are taking them and subsequently discover you’re pregnant, stop immediately and speak with your doctor. As you can see, no prescription acne product seems to be 100 percent safe while pregnant. Talk to your doctor if you experience severe acne, but it may be best to try to battle it with lifestyle modifications and over-the-counter products.
Acne Products While Pregnant
When treating acne with over-the-counter medications, be on the lookout for the following ingredients:
- Benzoyl peroxide: This is one of the most common ingredients in over-the-counter topical acne products. It is believed to be safe for use while pregnant, but because it has not been tested on pregnant women, it’s not advised for regular, long-term use. Because it has a bleaching agent, it can also stain your clothes or linens. While it should be fine for occasional use to treat active breakouts, avoid it in your daily beauty routine.
- Salicylic acid: Salicylic acid is another of the more common ingredients in over-the-counter acne products. While it is thought to be safe during pregnancy, it has not been proven completely safe and should be avoided for long-term use. It should be okay as a product to treat existing breakouts here and there, but not for daily use.
- Topical retinoid: While many topical retinoids are prescription strength, there are over-the-counter versions. These are marketed as retinoids for acne or retinol, used in wrinkle repair products. These should be completely avoided during pregnancy as they contain high levels of Vitamin A, which has been associated with birth defects.
- Glycolic acid: Glycolic acid helps remove excess oil and exfoliates your skin, and is considered safe for use during pregnancy. It is not as common as some of the other ingredients marketed for acne treatment, but may be present in some skincare products.
Managing Acne Breakouts While Pregnant
Because the active ingredients in almost all acne prescriptions and over-the-counter acne skin care products are not recommended for use during pregnancy, it’s best to opt for gentle, regular beauty products and battle your acne through your skin care routine, hygiene practices, and lifestyle modifications.
Here are some things you can try.
- Wash your face, but not too frequently: Wash your face in the morning and at night to remove the oil, bacteria, makeup, and environmental pollutants. However, if you wash more frequently than that your skin will ramp up oil production to replenish the moisture removed during washing, and it can cause more problems than it solves.
- Exfoliate: Exfoliate gently to remove excess skin cells that can clog your pores. Using an exfoliating product 2 to 3 times per week is enough — any more frequently than that can irritate your skin. The same is true if you suffer from acne on your back or body. Using an exfoliating loofah can do wonders for your body acne.
- Moisturize: It’s tempting to skip the moisturizer when you feel like your skin is oily or greasy, but if you skip it, your skin will overcompensate with oil production because it will feel too dry.
- Choose non-comedogenic makeup: If you’re struggling with breakouts, make sure that all moisturizers, serums, and makeup products are labeled as non-comedogenic — meaning it will not clog your pores.
- Wash your pillowcase: Your face spends a whole lot of hours rubbing against your pillowcase, and dirt, oil, and bacteria build up quickly. Wash your pillowcase regularly — or even cover it with a clean towel each night — to keep the gunk from clogging your pores while you sleep.
- Wear your hair up: Your hair carries oils, so keep it away from your face, especially when sleeping to keep it from transferring the oil to your face.
- Don’t touch your face: Avoid touching your fingers to your face as it can transfer dirt, bacteria, and oils to your face.
- Eat clean: When you eat high-glycemic foods, it causes your blood sugar to rise, your insulin to spike, and your hormone levels to adjust, potentially causing acne. Avoiding sugar and high glycemic foods can help tame your breakouts, and eating clean in general can reduce inflammation which contributes to acne.
- Use a light-based product: There are many light masks or light pens designed to treat acne by killing the bacteria on your face. These do not introduce a substance that is absorbed into your skin and are considered safe to use during pregnancy.
- Ditch dairy: Just about everything about dairy is bad for your skin if you are prone to acne. It contains a large amount of IGF-1 and endogenous hormones, but also causes your skin to produce excess sebum which leads to clogged pores.
The Best Pregnancy Acne Products of 2019
Now that you have a good idea of what to look for, here are our top picks to help you battle your pregnancy acne.
1. Aleavia Purifying Organic Facial Cleanser
Best Face Wash for Pregnancy Acne
Though it’s tempting to choose a face wash designed for acne to help with your breakouts, most of them contain ingredients like benzoyl peroxide or salicylic acid that are not considered safe for use during pregnancy. Instead, opt for a gentle cleanser that will clean your skin but not irritate it.
This plant-based cleanser is everything your skin is craving with none of the harmful additives. It uses natural prebiotics to help restore balance and heal acne rather than using harsh chemicals. It also contains oils to help keep your skin moisturized so it won’t become overly dry.
Not only does this product help to clear your acne, but it also can help combat the dark skin patches that can occur during pregnancy.
This cleanser is made from organic and natural ingredients and is paraben-free, which is helpful because parabens can mimic estrogen in the body. It also has no fragrances or dyes, which can irritate your skin — especially if it’s more sensitive during pregnancy.
2. Orange Blossom Water Face Toner
Best Toner to Try
A toner is a great part of your skin care regimen because it helps to restore the pH balance on your face, and also remove all traces of makeup and other debris that can clog pores and cause breakouts.
Many contain alcohol to work as an astringent, but that can tend to dry your face out. This particular toner uses orange blossom to both cleanse the skin and restore the natural acidity that is removed after cleansing.
The orange blossom in this toner also has antimicrobial properties, which further helps to fight acne-causing bacteria on your skin.
It is cruelty-free and vegan-friendly, so it will work with almost any woman’s lifestyle.
3. Neutrogena Hydro Boost
Best Facial Moisturizer for Pregnancy Acne
Choose a non-comedogenic moisturizer that does not contain retinoids or retinol. Opt for one that is effective to thoroughly hydrate your skin -- often acne occurs because the skin is too dry and your body overcompensates for it with excessive oil production.
This particular moisturizer keeps your skin hydrated with hyaluronic acid. Its gel-like consistency allows it to go on smooth and easily and be worn under makeup while still helping to hydrate your skin all day.
Hyaluronic acid occurs naturally in your body, and is safe to use on your skin during pregnancy.
It is fragrance-free, dye-free, and oil-free so it is suitable for people with sensitive skin. It is also non- comedogenic, so it won’t clog your pores and cause further breakouts.
If you’d like, you can also purchase companion products in the Hydro Boost line to make a whole skin care routine with one line of products that are designed to work together.
4. Belli Anti-Blemish Facial Wash
Best Dual Purpose Cleanser
Rich in lactic acid and other natural ingredients, this face wash targets hormonal acne in a gentle, refreshing way. Not only is it free of dangerous chemicals, but also common acne-fighting ingredients like salicylic acid and benzoyl peroxide. These are known for causing excessive dryness and irritation, which only leads to more breakouts.
Instead, the soothing formula is rich in antioxidants good for you skin. It’s even gone through a special screening process to ensure it doesn’t contain any ingredients known to cause defects or harm to your baby.
More than anything else, we love that moms can use this as a facial wash or a mask. You get two for the price of one with double the benefits.
To use as a daily cleanser, simply wet the skin and massage it in for sixty seconds before rinsing. To use as a mask, apply as normal but leave it on the face for up to five minutes.
5. Freeman Facial Manuka Clay Mask
Best Face Mask for Acne
Choose a face mask that will pull dirt, grime, and sebum from deep within your pores without being overly drying. And make sure to follow it up immediately with a moisturizer to replenish the moisture you lost while using your mask.
This dual mask and cleanser uses honey and tea tree oil to battle acne. Both are all-natural antibacterial agents that can help kill the acne-causing bacteria on your skin without harsh chemicals. It also helps to remove oil without over-drying.
Even better, it’s one of the most affordable products available.
It can be used as a mask for deep cleaning, or used as a cleanser if you’re in a hurry. However, we recommend only using as a mask occasionally as opposed to a daily cleanser due to the tea tree oil.
Though it’s an all-natural ingredient, tea tree oil can be dangerous during pregnancy if used too frequently or improperly. As long as you don’t ingest it or use it directly on your skin in an undiluted form, it should be safe to use. To be safe, you should wait to use products with tea tree oil until after the first trimester.
6. Swisspers Exfoliating Cotton Rounds
Best Exfoliating Cotton Rounds
When using your toner, give it some extra help by using exfoliating cotton rounds to apply it rather than the regular variety.
These rounds have one side that are rougher than the other, allowing them to gently scrub your skin to remove excess makeup, debris, and skin cells so it doesn’t clog your pores. This is particularly helpful for breakouts on your forehead or along your hairline.
These versatile rounds can also be used for makeup application or other beauty uses.
As a person who has waged a personal acne battle for over 20 years, I have recently discovered these exfoliating rounds and they have had the biggest impact on my breakouts over anything I’ve ever tried — including medicated products.
7. Clean & Clear Persa-Gel Spot Treatment
Best Acne Treatment Cream
While you should avoid medicated products on a daily basis, occasional use of salicylic acid or benzoyl peroxide products are widely considered safe for spot treatments. As long as you’re not trying to treat frequent breakouts, feel free to use acne products on an as-needed basis.
This 10 percent benzoyl peroxide product is designed to attack breakouts with a prescription-strength concentration. While you shouldn’t use this product every day of your pregnancy, it should be safe to use on occasion to battle embarrassing breakouts so they heal faster.
It helps tackle blemishes deep in the pores, at their source. It helps to dry out your pimples so they heal faster.
Because of this, it may dry out your skin. But if you’re not over-using it, this likely won’t be an issue.
8. Maybelline Dream Liquid Mousse Airbrush Foundation
Best Foundation for Pregnancy Acne
Choose a light foundation that is labeled as non-comedogenic, which means it won’t clog your pores. It needs to provide enough coverage to mask your existing breakout, but light enough that it won’t cause additional skin problems.
All the foundations marketed for acne-prone skin contain ingredients that are not recommended for daily use during pregnancy. This foundation is non-comedogenic, but will still offer you a full-coverage, smooth-looking finish to help create the illusion of flawless skin.
It can be worn for up to 16 hours, and is suitable for use on sensitive skin. It comes in several different colors to match your perfect shade and is lightweight despite its full coverage.
It also helps to moisturize your skin to keep it healthy and prevent it from drying out.
9. Almay Clear Complexion Concealer
Best Concealer for Pregnancy Acne
If you have the occasional blemish you want to cover and treat, it’s okay to choose one with benzoyl peroxide or salicylic acid. As long as these aren’t products you’re using every day, they shouldn’t affect your baby -- and they’ll help you get rid of your breakout faster.
This concealer comes in three different shades to help you choose the one that best matches your complexion. It is formulated with salicylic acid to help clear your breakouts, which is okay for occasional use but should not be used daily.
It has a mineral complex to absorb oil throughout the day and keep your face from appearing too shiny. It is hypoallergenic so it’s not likely to irritate your skin, and contains both aloe and chamomile to help reduce inflammation and reduce redness.
It is a full coverage concealer, meaning it is thick enough to cover your blemishes well. There are also additional products in the line if you’d like to purchase a full product line to help cover and heal your skin during breakouts.
My top product to help you battle pregnancy-related acne is Aleavia Purifying Organic Facial Cleanser. It contains natural and organic ingredients that will help to gently cleanse your skin without irritating it.
Because it doesn’t contain any ingredients that could be potentially harmful while pregnant, it’s safe to use every day. It also doesn’t have any irritants and can even help combat other skin conditions that are common during pregnancy, like skin darkening.
Pregnancy acne can be stubborn and frustrating, but with the right products, you can turn those constant breakouts into a true pregnancy glow.
Do you have any problems with acne during your pregnancy? How are you fighting it? What products are working the best for you? Let us know down in the comments below.